The Mental Health Ripple Effect: Meeting the Needs of All Involved

When a person serves as a caregiver for their loved one, they are taking on not only the daily care of that person, but also a certain level of personal sacrifice and weight within their own life. The social and emotional baggage of caregiving often goes unspoken, as caregivers fear it is selfish to think of their own needs when the needs of their loved one seem far more pressing. But these needs are real, and deserve therapy or counseling and social and familial support all the same. This is certainly true for those who care for a loved one living with serious mental illness.

Detecting depression in caretakers of mentally ill adults has been the main focus of recent work by psychiatric nurse researcher Jaclene Zauszniewski. Thought patterns such as low self worth, powerlessness, hopelessness, and loneliness can be early signs of depression, and it’s not difficult to see how these emotions can come into play for caregivers. Feeling powerless to help the person overcome their condition, feeling lonely and isolated from neighbors and coworkers who don’t understand mental illness, and even stress and sleeplessness from day-to-day tasks: these are all realities for thousands of people who care for a mentally ill loved one.

Zauszniewski’s work focuses on identifying depression among caregivers so that they can receive help, whether it be therapy and counseling, support groups, or otherwise. Caregivers may feel reluctant to pursue therapy because they feel responsible for being the strong one: the helper who does not need help. But we are all human, and caring for a loved one who struggles is no small task. Deciding to find a therapist, get support staff for a day off here and there, and otherwise address stress and depression is not a selfish act. Because seeking help for depression benefits quality of life for the caregiver, it also benefits the person they’re caring for by ensuring a healthy, engaged individual who is in the best shape possible to care for themselves and for others.

© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

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  • barry

    November 10th, 2010 at 11:50 AM

    I have seen my aunt taking care of my aged grandparents and i feel sad for her.she cannot eat,sleep or do anything calmly and is often left out of social gatherings if she is not able to find someone to look after them while she’s gone.I keep telling her that she will age quicker than normal if this continues.

  • Diane

    November 10th, 2010 at 7:27 PM

    So often overlooked, the caregiver is the one who really has to struggle to stay sane when doing this kind of work day in and day out.

  • Natasha

    November 11th, 2010 at 5:01 AM

    It’s almost as if it is contagious isn’t it? If we are in a happy environment with cheerful people we feel happy too. But if we are in a depressive environment with someone suffering it does affect us too.

  • Carol

    November 11th, 2010 at 5:43 AM

    I have seen both sides of the situation, having been the caretaker for my own mother for so long. It is no easy task to help your mother get dressed, bathed, go the bathroom, etc. It is hard physically but I found it to be way more challenging on a mental level. Seeing your parents reduced to mere children again and not being bale to essentially do anything to help themselves is certainly very sad and I have to say that doing this for several years took a major toll on my own health. I have brothers but none of them really wanted to step up to the plate and help out so for a ,ong while it was just me and my husband. I would not trade those years as I think it brought me and my mom closer but a little help would have been wonderful every now and then.

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